A Teenager in the Chad Civil War: A Memoir of Survival 1982–1986
By Esaie Toingar
Format: Paperback, 234 pp.; ill, maps
Age Range: 16-18 years
Publisher: Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2006
This work contains Toingar’s first-hand description of growing up, coming of age, and waging the ultimate struggle for survival in his war-torn country from1982 to 1986.
Gr. 10–12. Driven from home by the raging civil war in his country in the early 1980s, Toingar joined the rebels as a teenager, witnessed unspeakable atrocities, and survived betrayal and massacre before finally escaping the military. Miraculously, he returned to high school and eventually became a science teacher before emigrating to the U.S. as a United Nations refugee. His memoir never exploits the horrifying cruelty. In fact, the chronological narrative is distant and crowded with so many dates, names, and places that it reads more like a documentary report than a YA book. But with Chad now in the news and so little published in English about the 1980s war, interested older teens (and adults) may want this close-up view.
—Hazel Rochman © American Library Association.
Fascinating but unpolished. I wouldn’t call this the best book I’ve ever read, but it isn’t that bad, and there are so few books available by Chadian authors that I’ll take what I can get.
I normally don’t like it when I see a ghost-writer’s byline in a book, but this is one of those that I think would have benefited from a professional writer’s input. I thought the book would be a memoir about life as a child soldier, and it was, kind of, but Toingar focused as much on other people (sometimes people he didn’t even know) as much as himself, and wrote in a very dry, emotionless tone that didn’t suit the drama of the story he was trying to tell.
Toingar joined the army at the age of 14. He didn’t want to, but neither was he forced to; it’s just that the two different armies of the civil war were constantly raiding villages, raping, pillaging, burning and killing people, and he figured it was safer to have his own gun, have military training, and be among other armed people. A military career was never his goal; he wanted to get an education and get some decent job.
He writes a fair-ish account of what was going on and what he and the Chadian population experienced, but it would have been better if I had had more background knowledge of the civil war (I had none). A foreword, written by a scholar on the subject, would have helped. I would also have liked to know the details of how Toingar escaped to Algeria and ultimately to the United States, where he lives in Iowa and works an engineer.
More personal perspective needed. As the title explains, this is an account of the civil war in Chad given by a southerner who joined the rebellion. He gives a great deal of facts and history in the course of his memoir. My only wish is that he would have given more perspective into his own feelings about the crisis and tragedy that was happening around him.